The Solid Food Journey: Make Your Own Baby Food (and other thoughts…)

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Feeding Maggie the first six months of her life was easy. Not easy as in “Breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world! No problems at all!” I mean I-am-lazy-and-my-boobs-are-attached-to-my-body easy. When Maggie was hungry, all I had to do was pop my breast out of my bra or tank top, and there ya have it. I didn’t have to prepare anything, because — lucky for you Maggie! — my boobs are attached to my body for your convenience.

Then, things changed. I had to start thinking about solid foods. I’m telling you — once you think you’re in a good groove, literally the second you let your brain think “This sh*t is easy! I’m the best parent ever!”, something else comes into play and takes it all away. Solid food, teeth, sleep regression, separation anxiety, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. etc. etc. YOU’RE NEVER IN THE CLEAR.

When to start solid foods? We decided to wait until six months. There are a lot of theories and philosophies around this, and my best recommendation for you would be to do your research and ask for opinions from people you trust. I read a bunch of things, and asked my parent friends. Then ultimately, we did what we felt best for Maggie. That’s basically been my approach to most of this “parenting stuff”.

In my research, I found that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until baby is six months before solids [read more from their website here]. Dr. Sears recommends to take things slow, and to also wait until six months [read more from this website here]. I wasn’t personally in a rush to get Maggie on solids. I was nervous to be honest. I was able to see the excitement of tasting new flavors and textures, but I also saw allergies and choking. So thankfully around six months not only did Maggie seem ready to go, but Colin and I were also ready.

From Dr. Sears website:

Gone are the days when pressured mothers stuffed globs of cereal into the tight mouths of reluctant six-week-olds. Nowadays parents feed their baby on the timetable that is developmentally and nutritionally correct — as determined by their baby. Don’t be in a rush when introducing solid foods.

Here are some reasons you might wait to offer baby solids [from Dr. Sears]:

1. Baby’s intestines need to mature

2. Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex

3. Baby’s swallowing mechanism is immature

4. Baby needs to be able to sit up

5. Young infants are not equipped to chew [Maggie only just got her first two teeth at eight months]

6. Older babies like to imitate caregivers [around six months babies like to imitate; if they see you chewing/using a spoon/etc. they may want to try too].

A lot of doctors and people in general recommend starting baby with rice cereal. After a bit of reading and asking around, we decided to skip this with Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s first food was avocado. She liked that at first, didn’t for a while, now she’s back to liking it. Wacky!

A note on cereal from The Food Renegade:

What’s wrong with infant cereal? Babies can’t digest it. In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average. Undigested grains wreak havoc on your baby’s intestinal lining. It can throw off the balance of bacteria in their gut and lead to lots of complications as they age including: food allergies, behavioral problems, mood issues, and more.

Make Your Own Baby Food

Another thing I wanted to do to prepare for our solid food journey was to take the Make Your Own Baby Food class offered at Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover. The class is taught by Maria Nardella who was awesome — she is a personal chef, a health coach, and a mother. I wanted to take this class, because solid food intimidated me. It was overwhelming [as is each new step in the parenting journey I’m finding]. What should I feed Maggie? How do I properly and safely prepare it? How much should I feed her? When do I move on to new foods? What if she doesn’t like using a spoon? What if she doesn’t like the foods I’m giving her? etc. etc. etc.

MYOBF class from Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

Are you excited about making delicious and nutrition foods for your new baby?  Or does the prospect scare you but you really want to learn?  No matter how you answer the question, if you would like to learn how to make wholesome and nutritious baby food for your bundle of joy, without having to buy an expensive machine, come to the workshop! We will explore how and when to introduce solid foods, what foods to introduce first and when to add grains and proteins, how to prepare/store/serve the foods you make, fun ways to have your baby explore all these wonderful foods, demonstration on making your baby’s food using the equipment you have at home, and explore products that make creating and storing your foods easy.

Steps to preparing food for baby [for example, cauliflower]:

1.Wash cauliflower

2. Steam cauliflower for five to ten minutes [can test with a fork to see if it’s still not soft enough]

3. Add the steamed cauliflower into your blender, Vitamix, etc. as well as some of the steaming water you just used. That water has nutrients in it from the process of steaming and helps make the cauliflower the proper consistency for baby.

4. Blend that together, and let cool down a bit before serving to baby.

5. You can also add a bit of breast milk to the prepared food in order to thin it out more if needed.

6. Storing excess food — fill up an ice-cube tray with the rest of the food you made, put a piece of parchment paper on top and throw it in the freezer. That helps prepare you for a while! Just be sure to use the food up in time — this food should last up to three months.

*A note about storing foods — Be sure to label frozen foods with what it is, and the date. And don’t add breast milk into the food before freezing! Wait until you thaw it, and then add it in. Microwaving frozen food is not recommended. Instead, fill a bowl with hot water and add a smaller bowl [or my favorite — a Wean Green container — which they sell at Maternal Health and Wellness!] and let it defrost that way.

Some other takeaways from the class were:

  • Cauliflower is a great staple — it’s high in vitamin C and folic acid, it can also easily be mixed into other foods.
  • A child may need to be exposed to a food up to fifteen times before they like it [adults too!]
  • Be gentle and slow when introducing foods to baby — start with one food per week, or at least 4-5 days [so as to not overwhelm them, but also to watch out for allergies].
  • Sometimes it takes a while for an allergic reaction to show up. Don’t stress yourself out about this, but just be aware — diarrhea, constipation, mucus in poop, a rash — all can be signs of allergic reaction.
  • Steam the food you are giving to baby and save the steaming water to add into the blender with the steamed food for extra nutrients.
  • Can also add chicken stock for additional nutrients.
  • Can add organic coconut oil, butter, sea salt, etc. to foods in order to add a little extra flavor for baby.
  • You want baby’s first foods to be super smooth, no chunks. The reason for this is you want their food to already be broken down for them since this is a whole new ballgame.
  • Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes = all great first foods.
  • Keep track of how much baby is eating; for example if you put two tablespoons of food in each ice-cube slot, you know how much you’re giving your baby for those first few weeks or months.
  • Remember, at this point your baby probably hasn’t had a spoon in his or her mouth regularly. Serving baby his or her food off of a spoon may create anxiety for either baby or mom and dad at first. Keep in mind that it is fine to start with your finger to get baby comfortable with this new process.
  • Egg yolk is the safe part of an egg to give baby — the egg white is the allergenic, not the yolk — so the yolk mixed with some butter and sea salt is a great first food for baby. Plus, we tried it in class — it is delicious prepared this way!
  • Don’t stop breastfeeding or formula feeding just because baby is now getting solids. Continue breastfeeding as long as mom and baby want.
  • The dirty dozen — what to buy organicThe Dirty Dozen

Maggie is just about nine months old and our solid food journey has been a lot of fun! Maggie LOVES sweet potatoes, butternut squash, blueberries, apples/applesauce, egg yolk. She is usually pretty open-minded about trying new things, especially things like her cousin Brian’s doughnut [oops!]. She doesn’t really like green beans or peas, although I do keep trying them out on her. Maybe one day…

I try to make food for her for dinner every night [as best I can — usually the vegetable Colin and I are also having for dinner], but we definitely have been using Happy Family food pouches quite a bit too, and they are great. Maggie also loves their puffs and yogurt bites which are actually quite delicious, and they are a perfect way for her to practice her motor skills.

Something that really stuck with me from the Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is a phrase Maria used, “food for fun, until age one”. Remember, this is a fun and exploratory phase for both baby and parents. Enjoy it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves!

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The Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is $40 per family.

The next available openings are Monday, November 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or Saturday, January 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Click here to sign up!

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Mommy & Me Yoga

I can’t believe the summer is [basically] over! We got to do a lot of fun and interesting things, and I must say — our first summer with Maggie was a success. From hanging out at the beach on Plum Island, to vacationing with family in Myrtle Beach and on the Cape, to play group meetings and trips to Long Island and Vermont — we tried to give Maggie a taste of fun summer “musts”, and we fit in as much as possible. So that’s why we’ve been kind of MIA lately. Too much summer fun to be had. ;)

I hope you all also had a fabulous, safe summer!

Now as fall is knocking on our door, I’m finding myself slip slowly back into a more scheduled daily routine — and I must say, I don’t hate it. Yes I will soon miss the warm weather and my flip flops, but even without going back to school myself (or having a child go back to school) there is just something about September that makes you want to go on a shopping spree at Staples, and be productive (or just write a bunch of things on post-its). So here’s hoping September allows me to write more on here while balancing the other pieces of my life puzzle.

One fall activity I hope to keep on our schedule is Mommy and Me Yoga at Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover.

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We went on Monday for the first time and loved it! We ended up seeing two of my friends from our play group and their babies, and then there was one other mama and her baby in the class. It was a small, intimate group which was great — the instructor (who was friendly, easy to listen to/take direction from, and knew her stuff) was able to keep an eye on our little ones as we got into our poses or at times when we had our eyes shut.

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Maggie seemed to really enjoy it! She was chatting and growling (her new favorite thing) the whole time.  Mags isn’t crawling yet, but she definitely doesn’t want to sit still, so she wasn’t necessarily doing all the yoga moves — and neither were all of the other babies — which is totally acceptable in this class. I’d sit Maggie down and give her a toy to play with, or face her towards the mirror so she can admire herself (another one of her favorite things to do — “you’re so vain…you probably think this post is about you…”), or she would just be looking from one person to the next watching our movements. It was a forty-five minute class and I felt it was the perfect amount of time for both babies and mamas.

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Here is a bit more from Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

“This class is designed for moms with babies 6 weeks through 9 months.  Inspired by yoga flow, this class incorporates movement and breath designed to increase flexibility, regain strength and encourage overall physical and mental balance during the postnatal period. Postures target both mom and baby, individually and together.  We provide a flexible class structure for the feeding and comfort of both you and your baby.”

This class is every Monday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at 16 High Street, Suite 201 North Andover. Hope to see you soon!

*FIRST CLASS IS FREE*

Reconnecting with yourself after baby

this is the part whereWhen you’re pregnant, you know things are going to be different after your little one arrives. This is a weird feeling. You vaguely understand the concept, but will never completely grasp it until you are in the thick of things. The realization of it comes in different stages; I was first in the bubble of the hospital with my midwife, nurses, husband, and Maggie 24/7. Next, we moved to the bubble of our home [where we mostly stayed for a month or so because it was February and really cold]. Colin and I stayed with Maggie in our home bubble together for one week before he had to go back to work, and then my mother came for a week or two [I forget…it is lost in the fog of newborn life] to be with Maggie and I when Colin was working.

People came by, visited on the weekends, brought us food, cooked us dinners, did laundry, doted on me, told me to “sit with the baby” — life was great! I truly felt celebrated as a new mother, and Maggie was not short on attention or affection. I have been lucky enough to stay home with Maggie for these six months; both something I personally wanted and actually made most sense for us [when you compare what I was making to the cost of childcare]. I thank Colin for giving me this opportunity; it’s not always easy financially, but we are making it work for now.

When all the doting and celebrating stopped, I slowly felt things change a bit. The world, and life in general was on pause for a few months…now the world is spinning again. Yes people definitely do still check in, come visit here and there, and gush over Maggie — but life has gone on for everyone. Maggie was born, there was a celebration period, and now it’s back to business.

We’re six months out, and I am here thinking…who am I? What do I want to do professionally? Do I want more? Crave more? Is that okay?

It’s a tough subject to think about when you are pregnant — or was for me — but you will need to rediscover, re-prioritize, and reconnect with yourself after baby. Not to mention, finding your new groove as a couple after baby is also work that will need to be done. Things change, priorities change, plans change. You thought “sure, it’d be easy to go to the wedding — we will put Maggie down, and then dance the night away!” until the phase of your baby not wanting to go to sleep kicks in. Or, “yes we can meet you at 12, that’s fine!” but your baby needs to eat, then falls asleep and you don’t want to wake her up by putting her in her car seat so you let her sleep which means you are late. “I’d love to go to yoga and grab a drink after!” – you made it through yoga, but need to run home after because your little one is hysterical and needs her mama. You make to-do lists miles long, and some days don’t even get one thing crossed off.

You will understand how much you can love someone. Again, this is something you know before the baby comes, but you don’t fully get until he or she is here in your arms — a real little person. This love is powerful; it feels like your heart is weighed down because there is so much love in there — that your heart could burst. Sometimes this love makes you feel like the happiest person in the world, and sometimes it feels like the world is on your shoulders. It’s confusing, terrifying, and awesome in every sense of the word.

Your mind will come around and will be able to process and think about things other than dirty diapers, bath time, and swaddling. Until it does, it is worth it to say — don’t feel guilty about the bubble you create when you have a newborn. I personally think it is necessary for mom and dad to bond with baby this way; and for me, [and I think I can speak for my husband Colin on this] it was blissful. Sure I felt some pressure to attempt to keep the house clean or get some laundry done, [although like I said I did have help from Colin, my mother, and others — it takes a village, don’t be afraid to use it] but I prioritized the importance of getting to know my baby and slowing things down.

I think Colin and I found a pretty good balance of time for ourselves with Maggie, and time with others to introduce them to Maggie. It was important for both, as we were thrilled for our loved ones to meet her! Most importantly, you have to do what is right and works best for your family no matter what. You will know what that is when baby arrives. Trust yourself and don’t feel guilty [easier said that done]. It should be a law not to make new parents feel guilty in any way, shape, or form.

When your mind does come around, be prepared for a lot of confusion. Maybe you have been here before. This is where I find myself these days. I’ve had a lot of labels in life; “Michelle and Kevin’s daughter”, “A Mescall”, “Meg’s/Big Pat’s little sister”, “Kelly/Molly’s older sister”, “Colin’s girlfriend/wife”, “Student”, “Teacher”, and most recently “Maggie’s Mom”, “New Mom”. What about “Colleen Temple, twenty-eight year old woman”? Who the heck am I these days aside from a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend? What do I enjoy doing when I am alone? If I had a few hours by myself, what would I want to do?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently.

I love being a stay at home mother.

But, I also love writing and dedicating time to writing.

Guilt.

I love spending so much time with Maggie.

But, I also love time to myself.

Guilt.

When Maggie goes to sleep, I love getting one-on-one time with Colin.

But, I also love putting time into my passions and hobbies.

Guilt.

Why all the guilt? Well I think in our society sometimes it seems like you have to choose — are you going to be a dedicated stay at home mother, or are you going to work? For me it has taken me time to decide, and I am still deciding. What’s nice about today’s day and age is that there are lots of part-time work options, and work from home options. I am currently taking advantage of both as of late, and I think this is where my path will continue. Working from home, and/or part-time work options seem to speak to me most.

I am currently not ready to find someone I don’t know to hire and pay to watch Maggie. I’m not sure when I will be ready for that, or when Colin will be ready but we aren’t pressuring ourselves. Unfortunately, neither of our parents live nearby [mine are in New York, and Colin’s are in Vermont], but fortunately I have two sisters locally and Colin has one sister locally. We have taken advantage of these lovely ladies here and there to go out to dinner, to go see a movie, or just to run an errand. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. For me, I usually feel guilty leaving Maggie, but then am okay once I get to my destination.

This is all part of the process. It’s another phase I am in as a mother, which is currently the biggest part of my identity. I don’t know a lot of things, but what I do know is I love Maggie, I love spending time with her, I love writing, I want to write, I need to work out for my health, I need time to myself, and I need time with my husband. I want Maggie to grow up with an understanding that dedicating time to strengthen your marriage is necessary and important, that family time is crucial, that challenging yourself — your mind, body, and spirit — will make you a stronger, happier person.

Recent steps I have taken in rediscovering and reconnecting with myself:

  • Revamping my blog, and writing more [I am currently at a coffee shop writing this post while Maggie is at my sister Megan’s hanging with her and the boys. Thanks, Meg!] thank you meg
  • Dabbling in a bit of freelance work
  • Reading a book for pleasure
  • I went to a yoga class last night, and it felt great — I want to challenge myself to keep going
  • Spending time thinking about my goals; setting new ones, and tweaking old ones. I have big dreams — small goals and steps are necessary to accomplish the big things.

Having a baby is life changing in the best way, of course. But it can be scary, lonely, and heavy at times. I love being a mother, and I know Colin loves being a father. We are so happy in many different ways. But it is also okay to take off the “mom” or “dad” hat sometimes and enjoy things you want to do as a couple.

Similarly, I’m realizing that it is okay to take off both the “mom” and “wife” hats and just go au naturel as Colleen, as me. Being a wife and mother is and always will be priority number one for me, but I know I need to give myself time to grow as a person in order to be a good wife and mother — a happy wife and mother. When the mama is happy, the family is happy, amiright?

An ode to twenty minute naps

“She’s sleeping!” I say
Lots to get done today.

I take out my list and run through what to do,
Vacuuming, cleaning, and freelance work too.

The mountain of laundry, the emails and blog,
No wonder I’m in such a fog.

I feel overwhelmed but squash it,
As I make a cup of coffee and drink every last bit.

I rush around like I’m crazy, “what should I do next?”
No time to feel hazy.

I need a clear mind (is there such a thing?),
I sit on the couch, open my laptop, then ding!

Eyes open, you’re up!
I think I need to make another cup.

Twenty minutes, that’s it?
You’re still tired, and I can’t quit.

I try to help you fall back to sleep,
I feed you, I sing, I bounce…I don’t make a peep.

It’s not working, my to do list is lurking.

Still in my pajamas, no shower in sight,
I find my stale breakfast and take one more bite.

You cry, and so do I.

So I make a funny noise and grab one of your toys.

You smile your enchanting smile,
It’s okay, let’s just hang for a while.

Sometimes I think I need to throw out my lists and expectations,
Or maybe I just need another vacation?

Chores are on hold — dishes, organizing, and laundry to fold.

I call my mom to talk, she says, “f*ck it, go for a walk!”

“Oh and God bless!” her signature saying,
I guess instead of complaining I should be praying.

Mama said they’ll be days like this, I think, as I lean in to snuggle and give you a kiss.

This life is a blessing, and so are you
Let’s get some fresh air, cause girl, you’re still crying…

I think you need some too.

 

[Maggie did eventually fall asleep for another nap. Hopefully it’s longer than twenty minutes this time!]

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Singing in the shower: a story about bathing yourself with a six month old

Maggie is still sleeping. Perfect time to hop in the shower.

Turn shower on, undress, pull curtain, check monitor quick just to be sure those eyes are still closed.

Boom. Eyes open.

Shit.

Okay, still doable. Grab Maggie. Change diaper. Drag walker/bouncer/seat thingy into the bathroom with left arm, hook Maggie into my right arm. Plop Maggie in. Distract her. Jump in shower.

Thirty seconds goes by.

“Wahhhhhh!”

Poke my head out. “Peek-a-boo!” Maggie laughs. Good, good. This is fine.

Back in shower. “Wahhhhh!”

Pop head out. “Peek-a-boo!” Laughs. Cool; I got this.

“Peek-a-boo!”

“Wahhhhhh!”

Cool. On to the next.

“Maggie, look! Press these buttons and they make funny noises!” Awesome, she’ll be into this for a little while.

Two minutes go by. Poke head out SUPER fast to see how things are going.

I screwed up. Our eyes lock.

“Wahhhhhhh!”

Shit. Shit.

“It’s okay Maggie! Mama is almost done,” as I sing “row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…”

“Wahhhhhhh!”

Open the shower curtain halfway.

Maggie sees the goods (my boobs) and wants to be picked up. Can’t pick up. Shower will definitely be over. Must.power.through.

“Maggie! Hi! Here’s Mommy!”

All smiles as I continue to shower with the curtain half open while creating a little pool on the bathroom floor. I shave my legs as I sing “the ants go marching one by one…” and of course, do our choreographed dance as I perform the song.

For now, Maggie is happy and I’m able to shave my legs. Good stuff.

I quickly finish my shower with a superb rendition of ‘Hello Maggie’ (sung to the tune of Babs’ ‘Hello Dolly’), then hop out.

Mags spots the goods again and starts to fuss. The poor thing is hungry and has been patient. I pick her up and feed her as I drip dry, and think this has been a win for today.

 

Win two free tickets to MommyCon Boston!

Mommy Con Boston FreeThere are so many reasons why I’m excited for this MommyCon weekend.

1. There will be amazing sponsors there with incredible products I want to know more about and see in person.

2. There will be fabulous bloggers there that I follow and want to meet.

3. I’m going to the comedy show with some of my friends Friday night sans child (no offense, Mags).

4. Maggie will be with me for all other MommyCon related events, and I think she’s going to have some fun.

5. My sister works for Acelleron, the host sponsor, and her + Suzy + their team + the MommyCon team have been working really hard to put this event together. I’m very proud of them.

Lastly, it seems like there is going to be a wonderful community of mothers (and fathers!) together in one hotel learning, discussing, connecting, and supporting each other. We can all use that sort of environment every now and again, can’t we?

If you’re already going, awesome — hope to see you there. :)

If you don’t have tickets, but would like to attend Saturday’s events — enter to win two general admission Saturday tickets here! [total $80 value] All you have to do is like MommyCon on Facebook, Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness on Facebook, mama’s daily craic on Facebook, and comment here with anything having to do with MommyCon. I will randomly choose a winner tomorrow, Thursday July 31st by 5:00 p.m. EST. [All I will need is your email address in order to get you your tickets].

Thanks, and good luck!

The Birth Story of Maggie Grace (And Happy One Month!)

ImageImageIt has been one month.

One month since I was pregnant, and then – BOOM! – I wasn’t pregnant (well, it wasn’t exactly as quick as BOOM! but you know what I mean). How has my life changed since the BOOM! of being pregnant, to then holding and caring for a baby? It has changed drastically in many different ways. This post is going to be long, because I want to write about our birth. I want to remember it, and I want to be able to share it with Maggie some day. So, my point in saying this is…good luck with getting all the way to the end, because it’s long…very long. And if you do get to the end, you win a prize.

Labor, delivery, and then holding your baby for the first time are all CRAZY experiences, in my opinion. Let’s see if I can properly explain any of this…

Contractions started for me on Thursday, January 30th while I was at the movies watching Saving Mr. Banks with my friend Christine. They strengthened a bit that night, but seemed to go away Friday morning and most of the day. But then, BOOM!, they were back for more Friday night – growing consistently stronger and closer together. My goal was to labor at home for as long as possible, but by about 3:00 a.m. we decided it was time to head to the hospital. We arrived around 3:30, I was 4 cm dilated and my midwife said it would probably be about twelve hours from then that our baby would be with us. And guess what? She said this at about 3:45 a.m. Saturday morning, and Maggie arrived at 3:49 p.m. Saturday afternoon (February 1st). Pretty good guess, Rebecca!

I was the only one in the labor and delivery wing the day Maggie was born, which was really nice. The whole floor was quiet and peaceful – a perfect setting for the birth I envisioned. See, Colin and I had taken a five week hypnobirthing course in preparation for the day I went into labor. What drew us to the course were the relaxation techniques that I could use while I was in labor. I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant when I thought about actually HAVING the baby. Contractions, transition, pushing, crowning – they all made me tense and pretty terrified. I literally could cry on the spot when I thought about going into labor (ask Colin!) and knew I needed something to help calm me down. From what I read, and heard from my sister Megan and brother in law Matt (who took the course before the birth of their first son Declan) – I knew hypnobirthing could help me achieve my goal of a natural birth.

Our course and our instructor were extremely helpful. Probably by the third class, I was already feeling much calmer about everything. By the end of the course, and with continued practice of the meditations we learned as well as incorporating my affirmations into my life as much as possible, I was very calm when I thought about bringing our baby into the world. I was maybe a little (VERY little, honestly) nervous when I thought about going into labor, for fear of the unknown, but ultimately the course taught me to trust myself, my body, and my baby to do what they needed to do to bring Maggie safely into the world. Our bodies were meant to grow and birth a baby – there was nothing I needed to be afraid of. As someone who can be pretty insecure, it was hard at first for me to trust myself, but throughout my pregnancy I learned to. I’m not all the way there by any means, but becoming a mother is truly helping me with that. Thankfully I fully trust my amazing husband with all my being, and he was incredibly supportive of taking this hypnobirthing course with me, reading meditations to me, and being there whenever a fearful thought crept in. He helped me believe I could accomplish this, that I was strong enough to do this.

So back to birth day! My AMAZING husband Colin and my AMAZING mother Michelle were with me as I got through each contraction. My AMAZING midwife Barbara (Rebecca switched shifts by the time things got REALLY real) and my AMAZING nurse Angela were in and out helping with anything I needed, and then they were there the whole time during the transition/pushing phases. I thought I would only want my husband and mother in the room with me (in addition to my midwife and nurse of course), but then when I didn’t think I could go on any further – I really wanted my AMAZING big sister Meg. She had just recently (this past June) had a natural birth (with her son Brian) and I knew I could use her support as well. She came right to the hospital and rounded out my AMAZING birth team. I am saying AMAZING a million times in this paragraph, because that’s what each one of them are to me. Yes, I am the one who physically pushed Maggie out, but I could NOT have done this without Colin, Michelle, Barbara, Angela, and Megan. I couldn’t have. And I wouldn’t have wanted to. Each one of them gave me something different – a sense of calm, an understanding that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and that our baby would be there soon, a cold wash cloth on my forehead and ice on my back (back labor – ouch!), prayers, a hand to hold and encouraging words – I am so grateful for all of the help I received. This was a team effort, and Maggie was on our team too, of course. She worked with me and did everything she was supposed to do – she was just as AMAZING as everyone else. These people helped me succeed in accomplishing my goal of a natural birth. (**Side note – a natural birth is not for everyone. And there is nothing wrong with a different birth path using interventions. It is what each and every woman is comfortable with. After giving birth I would NEVER judge someone for wanting an epidural or other pain remedies – it is hard work with or without help!)

Also, our AMAZING friend Lisa was there all day to capture this adventure on video. She is truly a gift, that Lisa! I will forever cherish our video.

So here are a few snipits about my specific labor. Using the shower on and off throughout the twelve hours was so, so, so helpful for my body, especially because I experienced back labor. Back labor stinks – there really is no way to sugar coat it. It was painful. Using the tub during the transition phase let me feel a sense of relaxation – I didn’t want my body to tense up during this important time. I ate throughout the twelve hours, which kept my energy levels up (banana chips will forever remind me of this day). It is imperative that you drink water throughout this process. Make sure you have someone remembering this for you and forcing you to (you will have other things to think about and focus on…) Like they say, try your best to rest in between contractions. I was so tired that by the transition phase I was pretty much falling asleep in between contractions. But, come time to push I was ready to go. I pushed with sheer determination for about fifty minutes. I loved knowing that it was time to push, because you can finally understand that this is actually happening – the baby will be here soon, for real. My midwife didn’t really update me on how dilated I was throughout the process, which I was thankful for. What is the point in knowing, really? Just keep on keeping on and it’s obviously going to happen one way or another. If I knew how dilated I was every step of the way I think that would have made me anxious.

So anyway, I pushed and pushed – probably breaking my mom and Colin’s hands off in the process – and actually pulled Maggie right out onto my chest. WOW, that was cool! This moment was incredibly surreal and I know I won’t be able to describe it, but know that it was beyond words. I remember feeling SO HAPPY. So happy it was all finished, but that it was also just beginning. Maggie was finally here! Somehow all my energy came back (for a little while) and the room immediately filled with love with everyone who entered to meet our darling girl. We didn’t even fully decide on Maggie’s name for about an hour or so. We were deciding between Maggie and Lucy – and for some reason Maggie just seemed to fit her better. So, we went with Maggie Grace Temple. Twenty inches, and 8 pounds 2 ounces of perfection.

Those first two nights of Maggie’s life while we were in the hospital consisted of some sleep, lots of special visitors, Colin and I looking at Maggie in amazement, then at each other with crazy happy smiles on our faces, good food (seriously…they actually had good food at our hospital), lots of popping in and out by nurses, sleeping through the Super Bowl, Colin’s first experience changing a baby’s diaper, my first few experiences breastfeeding (wondering if I were even doing it correctly), realizing I still looked about five months pregnant even after Maggie wasn’t in there anymore (umm why don’t we magically go back to our pre-bump bodies?!), cuddling with Mags, texting/calling people, and updating our social media accounts with the good news. I honestly would have, and still would, shout our news from the rooftops!

People can tell you a million things about having a baby, but people couldn’t tell me a million things about ME and My child. Everyone is so different, and your experiences inevitably will be different. People couldn’t tell me how my heart would explode with love every time I breastfed Maggie (even if it would be tough on my nipples sometimes). They couldn’t tell me that my husband was some sort of magic swaddler of babies (with never having done it before), or that I’d miss Maggie when I wasn’t holding her (even if we were in the same room – crazy, I know!), or how watching her smile would bring me more joy than I could EVER imagine (even if people tell you that, you can’t actually know what they mean until you’re experiencing it). They could tell you that you’ll fall in love with your husband all over again, but you can’t understand that until you see YOUR husband with the baby you created together resting on his chest, or that first kiss you share after the final push that brings your baby into the world. They can tell you how great it is when you hold your baby, but they can’t explain the feeling you get when she sinks into you with complete comfort knowing she is in her mother’s arms.

Hopefully you have seen great generosity from people in your life – I know I have. But I couldn’t have imagined the generosity I would see from people throughout my pregnancy, and now with Maggie having arrived. Cards, flowers, cookies, fruit, meals, gifts, kind words and well wishes have been sent from all over the world, for our little girl. Colin’s parents and sister cleaned our house for us before we got home, and made dinner for us to eat the day we got home from the hospital so we had a home cooked meal. My father, grandfather, and sister drove up from and back to New York just to meet Maggie (with a beautiful teddy bear for Maggie, just like my dad gave me the day I was born!). My mother and sisters decorated our house for us to celebrate our bringing Maggie home. My husband stayed by my and Maggie’s side the whole time during our hospital stay. My sister Megan has been there to answer every single question or concern I have had throughout my whole pregnancy, and especially during these first few weeks of having a baby. My brother and sister are coming to visit all the way from California to meet our little one. My mother in law has put together the most beautiful book of pictures from Maggie’s first few days for us. My sister in law and her boyfriend made a delicious meal for us one of our first nights back home – they cleaned up and everything! (Always a great idea for new parents, I must say). My best friend and her boyfriend did the same! My mother gave up her personal time to stay with me the first week Colin went back to work. My sister Kelly put together a touching and completely wonderful video of Maggie’s first few days (link at the end of the post after the pictures). People have been so generous – more than generous, so it’s not even generous any more, it’s something bigger – a word I don’t have. These acts of kindness have brought me to tears many times – at times, right when they were happening, or at times privately in thinking about them. I am so appreciative – and in my crazy haze of postpartum feelings and emotions – hope each and every one of you know that. I love you all more than you know. (These people have done even more than this, but if I continued on I would have to publish a book on the specific subject of their generosity during the first few weeks of Maggie’s life. I’ve babbled on so long at this point, I don’t even know if anyone is still with me…….)

Maggie has already brought so much joy to people’s lives – Colin and mine for sure, and her grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. It was absolutely delightful to watch Maggie meet her great grandfather George and great grandmother Dot last weekend while we were up in Vermont. Watching the loving expressions on their faces was priceless. I am so happy they got to meet her while she is this small! And her Aunt Jean and cousin Dugan Mae too! (And Maggie met her other great grandparent, the Great Pa while we were in the hospital which was also wonderful).

Maggie is one month today. She loves to sleep on Mom and Dad’s chest. She doesn’t love getting changed. She poops a lot! And sometimes she pees the second her diaper is off (she is tricky!). She loves to nurse, and has been great from the start. She has a tight grip, and her neck is getting stronger and stronger every day. She had a photo shoot with our friend Alissa as well as her grandmother and was very cooperative throughout both. Maggie loves to snooze, swing in her swing, and play on her play mat. We’ve been referring to her as Maggie, Mags, or Colin’s word, Chubbaloots which makes me laugh every time we say it. Maggie likes to take baths, and likes having coconut oil rubbed on her. Mom, Dad, and everyone else who has experienced it, melt when Maggie smiles.

All the clichéd things people say about having a baby are true – it’s amazing, it’s life changing (in the best way), it’s truly a miracle. But you can’t possibly know all of this until you experience it which is part of why it’s so amazing. The second you’re in it – you get it; you’re part of the club.

I write this post with a happy baby sleeping peacefully on my chest, and my husband by my side. That, my friends, is my life these days – and I am truly happy.

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ImageImageImageThe video Kelly made us!

Introducing, Declan Patrick O’Neill!

I’ve always looked up to my parents, of course…and Audrey Hepburn has been my celebrity idol since I was a little girl. But, I’ve looked up to my sister Meg my whole life – more than anyone in the world. Since I was born I’ve been following her around, begging her to include me in things, borrowing her clothes…basically doing anything and everything she did.

We’ve been there for each other for everything – all the important things life has thrown our way. I was there when she met Matt at Merrimack (and for the record, I always knew he was the one), I was the Maid of Honor at their wedding, Meg will be the Maid of Honor at my wedding next year, and now most recently I have been there for the birth of Meg and Matt’s first child, Declan Patrick O’Neill.

I’ve never been apart of something so amazing.

A whole big gang of us (family members and friends) anxiously waited for someone to bust through the double doors of the hospital and give us the news last Thursday night. My nerves were going so crazy I thought I was going to spontaneously combust with the (dangerous) mixture of excitement, anxiety and caffeine. But the shakes were worth it. Around 10pm, the woman formally known as ‘Mom’ (who now proudly goes by ‘Nana’) ran through those doors and shouted “He’s here!”. We leapt from our seats, screaming and squealing – and about fifteen minutes later we were able to see him.

As soon as I saw Meg, Matt and Declan in that hospital room I cried – tears of absolutely, complete joy – I wanted to hug Meg and Matt so friggin tight to let them know how happy I am for them, and how proud I was of what they just did. My big sister just delivered a child. And he was right over there. This was and is real. I feel like I still can’t believe it. It was absolutely awesome.

Meg and Matt are going to the best parents around, and I can’t wait to be along for the ride. Declan has already stolen my heart (sorry Colin!) – he is the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen. See for yourself!

Declan's debut!

The O'Neill Family :D

The proud papa, Matthew

Auntie Colleen and Auntie Molly

Nana!

The cutest boy in town

Uncle Colin!

"No more pictures, please"

Smilin' :D

Poppa!

A little tiny yawn!

Love love love love you

DPO

Home sweet home!

Happy to have you home, little man

Meg and Matt – I wish you both the best of luck and just wanted to extend my utmost congratulations on the blog (it’s not official until it’s on the blog people!). Love you guys!

I’m going to be an aunt!

It’s time….the big blog announcement…

My big sister Meg is pregnant!

I already love this little baby...so much!

I CANNOT WAIT!!! We are all beyond thrilled. Congrats to Meg and Matt! You guys are going to be such amazing parents.

I literally couldn’t believe when Meg was getting married (the oldest child in the family to get married is a big deal, ya know?) It was such a fun experience and I was so honored to be apart of their big day. And now, a baby! I can’t believe it! It’s both mind-boggling and insanely exciting! I’m going to be an aunt! There are so many exclamation points in here! I can’t contain my excitement!

We were home on Long Island last weekend and went to Buy Buy Baby for a little browsing…

Buy Buy Baby -- Baby Central!

iPood! hahaha

Baby Facebook!

The lovely mom to-be!

All the Mescallettes gushing over the baby stuff!

The proud Grandmama, "Big Red" as we've decided the baby shall call her...

Sorry, I had to!

A must-have for the little babe (dad to-be Matthew is a big Mets fan!)

Another must-have...if it's a girl, or maybe if it's a boy - hey! However Meg and Matt want to raise their child is up to them... (dad to-be is also a proud Giants fan!)

Aunt Kelly testing out some strollers!

SO much fun! I can only imagine how much fun is in store for all of us throughout this journey. You know there will be updates along the way!

Happy Friday :)